Turkey scrambles fighter jets
Turkey scrambled two fighter planes to the border with Syria today after a Syrian military helicopter bombed the Syrian border town of Azmarin.
There has been intense fighting between rebels and Syrian government forces this week in Azmarin and neighbouring towns, an area strongly opposed to president Bashar al-Assad's rule.
Shells fired onto the town from surrounding hills sent thick plumes of smoke and dust rising into the air during fighting yesterday and a voice amplified through loudspeakers, audible from the village of Hacipasa in Turkey's Hatay province, called on rebel fighters to surrender, warning of an air assault.
Fighting along Turkey's 900-km (560-mile) border with Syria has repeatedly spilled over into Turkish territory in the past week, with the Turkish army responding in kind to gunfire and mortar shells fired from Syria.
Turkish chief of staff General Necdet Ozel said on Wednesday his troops would respond "with greater force" if the shells continued to land on Turkish soil, and parliament last week authorised the deployment of troops beyond Turkey, heightening fears that Syria's civil war would drag in regional powers.
Elsewhere, Syrian rebels captured an air defence base east of Aleppo as government forces battled insurgents on several fronts across the country, activists said.
Clashes were also taking place at a military barracks close to Maarat al-Nuaman, a town on the main highway to the northwestern city of Aleppo which was seized by rebel forces earlier this week, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The pro-opposition Observatory gave a death toll yesterday of more than 260 people, including civilians and combatants on both sides in violence in the capital and the north, west and east.
It said 92 soldiers were killed yesterday, which would be one of the highest daily casualty counts on the government side since the uprising against president Bashar al-Assad broke out in March 2011.
The official Sana news agency also reported fighting nationwide and said dozens of rebels, which it called "mercenary terrorists", had been killed.
The reports could not be independently verified but they indicate a rapidly intensifying conflict, with the death tolls of the past several weeks far exceeding previous months.
Although international attention has focused on the Turkish border in the past week, Aleppo and the city of Homs - north of Damascus and near the border with Lebanon - are being fought over and clashes take place almost daily in the suburbs of the capital Damascus as well as in the countryside.